Pu-Er tea is a variety of fermented and aged dark tea produced in Yunnan province, China, and named after Pu’er City. A category unto itself, like oolong, green or white, Pu-Er could well be called China’s mystery tea. It has been produced in Yunnan from ancient times and shipped from market town of Pu’er until eventually the tea itself acquired this name outside Yunnan.
Pu-Er is made tea, either black, green or white, which is then sprayed with an unknown bacterium and allowed to undergo a sort of secondary fermentation.
Fermentation in the context of tea production involves microbial fermentation and oxidation of the tea leaves, after they have been dried and rolled. This process is a Chinese specialty and produces tea known as Hei Chá (黑茶), commonly translated as dark, or black tea (this type of tea is different from what in the West is known as “black tea”, which in China is called “red tea” (红茶). The best known variety of this category of tea is Pǔ’ěr from Yunnan Province, named after the trading post for dark tea during imperial China.
Pu-Er may be compressed into many shapes or left loose and, unique among teas, it actually improves with age. The best Pu-Er comes from the area called the “Six Famous Mountains” in Xishuanbanna region. Chinese also call the Pu-Er category Heicha or Dark tea.